Member of Parliament from Aljunied GRC, Ms Sylvia Lim asked in parliament on Monday about the cost of the extra days of National Day Parade (NDP) rehearsals at the Sports Hub and whether the government expects to pay similar amounts for future years when the Sports Hub is chosen as the NDP venue again.
In his reply, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that previous NDPs at the Marina Bay Floating Platform had cost between $15.7 million and $17.9 million. He also listed the prices of the other NDPs held in recent years.
2010 (Padang) - $20.6 million
2015 (Marina Bay Floating Platform) - $40.5 million
2016 - $39.4 million
Mr Ng said that the venue costs for the parade this year make up about 15 per cent of the total cost, higher than that for the public spaces at the Marina Bay Floating Platform and Padang. 22 per cent for Padang due to the audience stand that has to be constructed and 4 per cent for Marina Bay Floating Platform.
When Ms Lim tried to clarify with Mr Ng with the exact cost of rental for the new National Stadium. Mr Ng retorted her by saying, "15 per cent is a figure".
If 15 per cent of the total cost of NDP 2016 is for rental, that means the NDP organisers will be spending $5.9 million dollars for the rental at National Stadium compared to about $700 thousand for venue cost at the Marina Bay Floating Platform.
Dr Ng said about half of the bill for a parade held in the National Stadium will be for the show segment, which is consistent with the editions held at the other two venues.
Although the percentage of the show segment is the same, this would mean that about $20 million will be spent on the show segment in NDP 2016 as compared to about $9 million in Marina Bay Floating Platform and about $10 at Padang.
Due to safety reasons and space constraint, the traditional mobile column from the Army and "Red Lions" will not be present in the NDP 2016. However, Dr Ng said that the new setting of the Sports Hub will offer “a different type of show” because its big confined space and central pitch allows for a large stage. The stadium’s seating capacity of 55,000 is also more than double that of the floating platform and the Padang, which can each accommodate 25,000 people.
MP for Sembawang GRC, Vikram Nair asked if the increase of seats would mean that more Singaporeans would get to view the shows as many are disappointed every year because they were not successfully in the ticket ballots.
In reply, Mr Ng said that there will be still many more who could not get their seats than who can apply and said that the show will be on live-broadcast for public.
MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, Mr Zaqy Mohamad asked whether the Ministry of Defence had considered holding rehearsals off-site.
Dr Ng replied that he leaves to the executive committee of the NDP to decide whether rehearsals should be conducted away from the stadium and said that many rehearsals are already held off-site, with some rehearsals being held eight months prior to actual NDP.
Ms Lim in her follow-up questions asked if there was a dispute resolution mechanism for venue use under the public-private partnership with the Sports Hub and whether a detailed cost breakdown of this year’s NDP will be included in the Government’s Budget statement later this month. She also commented that the government have said that the NDP for SG50 is an exceptional case and asked if the NDP for 2016 would be used as a benchmark.
Dr Ng said he expects any recourse to be similar to that for all public contracts for events held in private venues and he stressed that there was “no dispute”.
In December 2015, the news reported that NDP organisers were told to pay $26 million for leasing the venue for an extra 35 days for rehearsals. (ST link)
On the question of the breakdown of the NDP budget, Mr Ng replied irritatedly, “(Ms Lim) has been in this House for many years. She knows that we don’t provide those details in the Budget — and if you ask a question, we’ll tell you,”
On the question of SG50 celebrations used as a benchmark for future parades in “non-milestone years”, Dr Ng said: “I never said that last year’s NDP would be used as a benchmark. This is what (Ms Lim) has said.”
He added: “I’ve provided many figures, including the fact that the number of spectators ... will be more than double, (but Ms Lim) has chosen not to talk on that figure but to move back to her points.”
Ms Lim further chased Mr Ng to reply on the point about the SG50 NDP benchmark however Mr Ng harshly replied, "This is a theoretical question that I don't want to answer."
Editor's note - Note that the budget for the NDP is twice as much as the conventional NDPs in the past and just a million odd difference from Singapore's jubilee NDP celebration.
The construction and management of the sports hub were placed under a private-public partnership (PPP) scheme for a 25-year lease period. The selected developer is required to design, build, finance and operate the Sports Hub during the lease period. The total cost of the project ballooned to $1.33 billion from the initial estimate of $600 million to $800 million. The Government, through Sport Singapore, will reimburse the company with an annual sum until the end of the lease.